tv ABC World News With Diane Sawyer ABC July 20, 2012 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
every detail. >> announcer: from abc news, this is a special edition of "world news" with diane sawyer. tragedy in colorado t movie theater massacre. good evening. as we come on the air tonight, another safe part of american life has been shattered by a lone gunman with an assault weapon. that movie theater in aurora, colorado, taking alongside the high school in columbine, the campus at virginia tech. we have cell phone video taken right after the man in the gas mask opened fire at the midnight showing of batman. at this hour, 12 people killed, more than 50 wounded. and tonight, undercover police are beefing up security at movie theaters around this country. these are the two photos everyone has been studying for some meaning, how did james holmes, just 16 there, become
the 24-year-old grad student who called himself "the joker." across the country, abc news is on this story and david muir is starting our coverage of what happened in that theater minute by minute. david. >> diane, good evening. this is the movie theater behind me in aurora, colorado. it is incredible to think last night those theaters were sold out. so many moviegoers excited to see batman. they saw a real life horror scene play out in front of them. they carried out the bodies of the dead just moments ago. these are the terrifying moments captured on a cellphone. the chaos that unfolded minutes into the new "batman" movie. >> what's happening? >> oh my god. >> reporter: moviegoers thought the first signs of smoke in that theatre were all part of the premiere. but soon patrons were racing from the theatre covered in blood. it all began as a night of anticipation. four sold out theatres in aurora, colorado -- just outside denver. some people dressed as characters from the film. some tweets from those arriving -- it's going to be a good night, wrote one. but 24-year-old james holmes,
the suspect, had also purchased his ticket, his hair died red like the most recent version of the joker. five minutes past midnight, inside the sold out theatre 9, holmes was in the theatre taking his seat along with everyone else. the lights go down and the movie begins. not long after the opening credits, one witness said the suspect appeared to be getting a phone call. now it's believed it was an excuse for him to get up from his seat and leave through one of the emergency exits. as the movie continues, outside authorities believe he was gearing up. dressed in black, wearing a bulletproof vest, a ballistic helmet, a gas mask, gear covering his throat, legs and tactical gloves, too. he is heard saying, "i am the joker." standing at the front of the theatre, witnesses say holmes hurled two green canisters. >> i heard the sound of metal canisters clinking around. then i saw plumes of smoke. that smoke carrying some sort of irritant spread. witnesses say it smelled like pepper spray. and so many are tricked into thinking it was simply a special effect or a stunt -- all part of the movie. until -- then, standing in front of the screen, he opens fire. jennifer seeger told us she was
face to face with the gunman. he was pointing the gun? >> yeah, at me. and anybody else in the row that was near me. >> reporter: and what did you do? >> at that point, i had to move. i instinctively dove as far on the ground and the aisle. >> reporter: when she ducked, he started firing on the row sitting behind her. >> he unleashed his fury on everybody else. there were dead bodies, people injured. i could hear moaning and groaning. people were shouting. crying babies. moms, there was a lady with a baby in there that got shot at. it was just terrifying. >> reporter: for those trying to hide on the floor, burning hot shell cases landing on them, showering over them. others ran to the exit. he notices. and witnesses say the suspect begins shooting at people trying to get out. and when he runs out of ammunition, silence. >> you're just sitting there like waiting ducks and it got really silent because he was reloading his gun and all you hear is the footsteps getting closer to you. >> reporter: you were hearing the screams?
>> yes, and when i looked up there were bodies just laying on the stairs. >> reporter: all the while, the suspect re-loading. the gunman begins his assault all over again. people had been shot in the leg, the arms, the thigh, the back. it was just terrible. a staggering 71 people shot, among the injured a 4 month old baby who survived. and at 12:39, the first of hundreds of calls to 9-1-1. >> they got a team getting ready to come in on the first floor. >> reporter: within a minute and a half, police are on the scene. 200 officers in all would descend on the theater. police entering with flashlights shouting "put your arms up" to the frantic moviegoers trying to get out, still loading them in to squad cars and racing them to the hospital. >> the back is full of blood. i don't know if that matters or not. >> full of what? >> blood, excessively. back seats are full of biohazard material. at 12:45 the suspect is spotted. near his white hyundai parked behind the theater. there is a gun on top of his car.
he surrenders without a fight. tonight we learned of a small vigil this evening. they are planning a larger vigil this weekend. there's a laser focus on that young man who surrendered in the parking lot behind me without a fight. leaving so many to ask why did he do what he did in that theater here last night. >> david, thank you. as we know, what he did in in theaters not all he had planned. as we are on the air, bomb squads are continuing their dangerous work at his apartment. police say it is a cat cradle of trip wires, boop by traps, explosives and chemicals. who is this man determined to sew so much chaos. abc's brian ross is here. >> reporter: diane, in an era of facebook and twitter, no one has posted anything by or about james holmes online. he is a man of mystery. it's very clear, as his life was in crisis, he began to make plans for his attack. he moved to colorado last fall. came across as a quiet and easy going college student.
but it was a different jim holmes who showed up at this san diego pawnshop asking for tips about firing a gun. >> i immediately recognized him when i saw his picture. i was -- my first words out of my mouth, oh my god, he looks very familiar. >> reporter: last night, at his apartment building heard loud music blaring around midnight from his room, with the recorded sounds of gunshots. >> knowing that i almost opened the door to his apartment, that i was banging on that door, thank god that he wasn't there. >> reporter: and then holmes apparently attempted to make himself into the joker character of the batman series. according to a briefing given to the new york police commissioner. >> he had his hair painted red. he said he was the joker. >> reporter: it was over the last few months that holmes, who was phi beta kappa in college saw his dreams collapse as he with draw from a ph.d. program in neuro science at the university of colorado. >> these events usually come on
after someone thinks about and plans for these attacks. >> reporter: this is holmes just six years ago, called jimmy. a clean cut high school senior in san diego. he had been a member of the junior varsity soccer team. >> he was just quiet. >> reporter: when holmes mother, a psychiatric nurse was first contacted at her san diego home this morning, she did not seem surprised that something had happened. you've got the right person she told abc news. i've got to call the police. >> today his father robert left the family home in san diego under police protection to fly to denver. in colorado, police continue to search holmes apartment, which was described as elaborately booby trapped with chemicals and incendiary devices. >> authorities fear he may are rigged similar booby traps in the university buildings where he took his classes. >> we got word from our denver affiliate, he was so calm because he had taking doses of the painkiller vicodin. >> a very strong painkiller.
i want to bring in our pier thomas right now. pier, you have news about the weapons he had. were they legal? how powerful were they. >> reporter: james holmes came ready for war with a smith & wesson assault rifle like the one we're about to show. it has a special magazine fire as many as 100 bullets in just a few minutes. they travel at such a high speed, travel through two or three people at a time. he had a 12 gauge shotgun and two 40-caliber pistols. he had a gas mask. diane, sources tell us holmes was the classic lone wolf. no ties to terrorist organizations and no criminal record to speak of. only record we know of is a speeding ticket. that's very important, diane, it means he would pass every background check. he bought the guns legally at three local sporting goods stores. >> when he you say power, apparently one of the bullets passed through that theater where he was into another theater and injured someone there, according to the police chief.
what about the booby traps and these chemicals? >> reporter: tonight a very tense situation ongoing at the suspect's apartment. we're told it's booby trapped, full of trip wires, containers of flammable liquids and what appear to be large explosive devices. sources say the bombs involved a combination of gas and powder devices. it's so dangerous that authorities are inserting remote controlled cameras to scan the rooms. one official said holmes was like a mad scientist. sources say the rooms appear to be designed to explode if police had raced through the door. officials believe it was a plan to massacre police if he had been killed at the scene, diane. >> pier thomas also reporting in tonight. thank you. above all, of course, this is a story of those who lived and those who did not. how one seat made all the difference between life and death. we've been hearing harrowing stories today. we've seen the photos of families awaiting word about their loved ones.
this woman overheard saying, they cannot find him. abc's chris cuomo spent the day with some of those families and the survivors. chris. >> reporter: one of the things that makes this situation so unique is how young some of the people who were involved. they're still in a fog. they don't know how to deal with what happened or why it happened. but the worst agony so far, diane, is still reserved for family, loved ones worrying about the unknown. today friends and family raced to high school desperate for news that loved ones survived, terrified of the unknown. >> his name is alex sullivan. please call so we can find him. >> reporter: so far, the name of one victim, jessica ghawi, 24, an aspiring sports reporter, who incredibly survived another shooting in toronto last month and blogged about the
preshousness of life. >> i was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on earth will end. when or where we'll breathe our last breath. survivors like chris ramos, try to make sense of what he witness ed. >> there's no feeling, no word, no jarring detail of what i can give you to make you understand how we felt. just washing away the dirt and the fear that they have on their skin. >> reporter: the horror created by a man at his worst, but saved by people at their best like jarell brooks, just 19 years old, who took a bullet to the leg while helping a mother and her two children escape. >> reporter: do you think about where that bullet would have gone? >> the position where i was at, it could have hit her in her head because i was guiding her, doing baby steps. i was crawling. the littlest one, the baby girl, probably could have got hit in the head. >> hero, how do you feel about that word being put on you for what happened in that theater? >> i don't want to say hero, necessarily. i was just in the wrong place at the right time. that's all i can say.
>> reporter: isn't it you in the wrong place at the wrong time because you wound up getting shot? >> the wrong place because i had to deal with the situation, but i was there at right time because i was there to help the family. >> reporter: his most heroic act, maybe the forgiveness he found for the man who shot him and so many others. >> i don't hate the man who shot me. forgiveness is more bold than, you know, hate or revenge or redemption. >> reporter: what a powerful message of forgiveness for what he suffered, what he saw, and the longer i'm here, the more stories we're hearing of others like jarrel, who kept this from being even worse. >> chris, thanks so much for introducing us to that heroic stranger. well, i had a chance to talk to the mom who's children, in fact, he helped save. i spoke to the mother, the father, and by the way, you should know, that this mother, this mother, also had gunshots, wounds, in the backs of her legs.
>> you didn't know if it was fireworks or what it was, but my first instinct was tell her get to the ground. >> but where was the baby? >> the baby was in my arms at that time. and then it was just chaos. >> at that moment, i just remember thinking, i'm not going to die in here. me and my kids, we are not going to die in here. i need to get them out. my daughter tripped and i pulled her up and i was just dragging her. we just got to get out. it was so horrible. >> and you were wounded in the back of your leg? >> i got a shot and i have shrapnel wounds all the way from my ankle to my upper thigh. >> that shot was heading their way? >> it was headed towards my daughter had i not moved her, i had just put her in front of me when i felt it. had i not moved her, i don't know what would have happened to her. >> i just thank god we sat where we did and we showed up late,
because where we were going to sit was in the front row where the gunman came in. >> everybody there was just watching a movie. we just went to watch a movie. >> he's asleep right now in your arms? >> yeah. he's fine. >> they told us they're so grateful to that stranger who helped. and coming up here, it was supposed to be the movie event of the summer. why police believe that character from the batman films may have played a role in this tragedy. tragedy. in florida we had more suntans... in alabama we had more beautiful blooms... in mississippi we had more good times... in louisiana we had more fun on the water. last season we broke all kinds of records on the gulf. this year we are out to do even better... and now is a great time to start. our beatches are even more relaxing...
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really? so testing is one less thing i have to worry about today. great. call or click today and get strips and a meter free. test easy. and now, as we said, police in colorado are studying the batman movies and comic books to learn more about the mind of the killer in aurora. and as we also said, police departments around this country are sending extra security to guard theaters showing that movie tonight. here is abc's dan harris. >> reporter: the movie event of the summer has tonight become a massive security concern. at amc theaters nobody is let in with a mask or fake weapon. fans we spoke with were mindful but undeterred. >> no part of you is thinking i don't know if i want to go see this movie? >> no, no. i want to see this movie. >> just because one person decided to do it, doesn't mean it will happen in cities all
across america, i don't think. >> despite a strong start at the box office, the studio is reeling with the suspect james holmes, allegedly telling police, i am the joker. he died his hair possibly to look like the character in this scene. he also allegedly rigged his apartment with elaborate booby traps, a favorite weapon of the joker, who gleefully executes elaborate lethal crimes and was once described by an actor, heath ledger, as a murdering schizophrenic clown with a zero empat empathy. >> everything becomes chaos. >> reporter: to call the batman movie dark would be an understatement. one of the comics that inspired the movie showed a bad guy shooting up a movie theater. the director of the movie says that grit and moral ambiguity is exactly what resonates with fans. >> they will be unsettled in the way we want them to be. >> batman is not the first
movie to provoke copy cats. columbine shooter reenacted scenes from the may tris. experts say movies aren't the cause of these killings, only the inspiration. maybe in his mind, maybe he was becoming part of the movie. look, what this person can do, look at the power that they have in their hands. >> reporter: and tonight, we're outside a movie theater in manhattan, where at times there have been lines, diane, around the block. just moments ago, we got a statement from the director of the movie, who says, quote t movie theater is my home and the idea that somebody would violate that innocent and hopeful place in a savage way is devastating to me. >> dan harris reporting in. every single family in the country has to address what it means to a child when a movie theater was not safe. when we come back, the best thing to say to your children and grandchildren about what happened. the medicare debate continues in washington...
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we have to let your kids know that this is an isolated incident. it's tragic, it's horrible, but it's isolated. we have to talk about it. >> we have got to talk about it. that was the mayor of aurora, colorado, steve hickenlooper. i want to bring in our editor dr. richard besser, a pediatrician by the way. you studied so many of these cases. what's the most important and surprising thing we should remember? >> i think it's so important to remember that you don't need to have been in that movie theater to be really traumatized by this. so you have to take your own pulse and see what your level of stress is and watch for that stress in your children. >> tell me the best things to say at each age for a child. >> a child who is under 7, what you want to do is shield them. they'll never be able to understand this.
don't let them watch television about it or see it on computers. we know that they're at risk for post-traumatic stress from seeing this over and over again. children who are older, young school age children, you want to reassure them, let them know, this was a rare event. this was a bad person, a sick person and they got him. he's no longer there. then your older children, the tweens and teens, you want to have a conversation with them. they'll play off you and how you're reacting to this. you want to understand where they're coming from. i would ask them one question, the next time they want to go to the movie, say, can i come too? you may find that a teenager who didn't want to spend time with you at the movie theaters are going to be comforted by having you by their side. >> don't assume this isn't affecting them just because they say nothing. >> you have to watch for those diane. >> and our team on the ground in colorado will be up next. david muir, chris cuomo with more thoughts, more pictures
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[ male announcer ] learn more at isitlowt.com. [ laughs ] hey! a live shot now of the white house, the flag at half staff. president obama said this morning, it is a day for prayer and reflection. and now, we want to go back to aurora for a final thought from abc's david muir and also from abc's chris cuomo. david. >> diane, when we boarded the plane today to come to denver, people on the plane saying have you heard, can you believe it that this kind of tragedy would strike this region again. this movie theater is 13 miles from columbine high school. so many of the stories we heard today heart breaking.
they dealt with this just a few years ago, diane. >> and chris, final thoughts from you? >> not over yet, diane. still so many struggling for life in the hospital, families who don't know what happened. people dealing with head shots, chest wounds. this is far from over. yet, we must remember, we got lucky here. the police know this theater very well. their station is very close. they're used to trouble here. they knew the ins and outs of this theater. they got men here in two minutes. if not for that response time, who knows what he would have done with all the extra ammo he still had. >> it was an extraordinary response for law enforcement. the mayor said today we have taken a blow. we will be back on our feet. i want everyone to know that chris cuomo and i will coanchoring a special edition of 20/20 tonight. we hope you'll join us. we will have new details and new photos as well. "nightline" of course will have a specific edition later. and all the breaking details
throughout the night at abcnews.com. david muir at this chair and anchoring from the scene tomorrow night. until then, we hope you have a good night, you and your family together. and until then, i'll see you tonight on "20/20." "20/20." a gunman turns a badman screening into a real live horror film and has booby
trapped his apartment. >> what is it look to be shot and survived? one man talks about his ordeal. >> this shooting has been shock waves through the movie industry. how bay area film makers are reacting. >> tonight helping foster children. a look at how bay area volunteers are making a difference ery day. >> it could be with, if i stand up, he's going to shoot me. that is what he was doing. i was just trying to see... how i was going to get my kids out of there. >> tragedy in colorado. a gunman shoots 71 people, killing 12 during a midnight showing of the new batman movie. >> this is one of the worst mass shootings ever in the united states. good evening, i'm dan ashley. >> and we have just learned that family members have been told they'll be notified at 7:00 p.m. our time if the bodies of
their loved ones are inside of the theater. >> we're also just learning one surviving victim is a graduate of the university of the pacific in stockton, petra anderson was shot and recovering. >> she graduated from the university's conservatory of music. she's a violinist and opera student. >> the shooting happened in aurora. this is slightly smaller than oakland. >> police are staked at at the apartment of the shooter booby trapped with explosives and trip wires. plos say holmes entered the theater wearing bulletproofed clothing and a gas mask. >> he apparently unleashed smoke bombs before firing into the crowd, hitting 71 people. >> all i can think if i stand up, he's going to shoot. i was justr